Mekedatu: Congress to go ahead with padayatra despite weekend curfew
With the Opposition Congress in the State on Wednesday declaring that it is firm on its decision on taking out a padayatra from Mekedatu to Bengaluru on Sunday in response to the State Government’s ban on holding political rallies/protests citing COVID-19 norms, the stage appears set for a political showdown between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.
The Congress under the leadership of its president D.K. Shivakumar has decided to lead the march to Bengaluru, demanding that the BJP Government implement the Mekedatu project, a balancing reservoir in the Cavuery basin, to bring water to quench the thirst of residents of Bengaluru.
However, with the steep rise in COVID-19 cases in the last few days, the government has imposed weekend curfew (from 10 p.m. on Friday to 5 a.m. on Monday) for two weeks and banned all rallies, demonstrations and large gatherings of all groups and organisations, for two weeks.
While the Government maintained that COVID-19 guidelines and weekend curfew are enforced in public interest and not targeted at any particular organisation, the KPCC chief termed it as “BJP lockdown and not COVID lockdown” aimed at “destroying the livelihood of drivers, traders and street vendors” and “harassing people through restrictions”.
Speaking to a private TV channel, Mr. Shivakumar said: “It’s a BJP COVID. There is no Corona here. The BJP duplicated the numbers to avoid our walk for water. The BJP had conducted many yatras earlier. All (COVID) numbers are bogus and false.”
Meanwhile, the Congress on Wednesday said the party would take out a “walk for water”. Mr. Shivakumar has been holding a series of meetings with party leaders and legislators to make the 10-day padayatra a grand success. The party would adhere to the COVID-19 appropriate behaviour during the padayatra, he said. The party has ordered one lakh masks and sought deployment of 100 doctors from the KPCC doctors’ cell and 10 mobile ambulances, he said.
Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah said: “We will protest to expose the conspiracy of the BJP government. The order was issued to scuttle the padayatra”. The project will provide water to 2.5 crore people in the State, he said.
Mr. Siddaramaiah trained the guns on BJP leaders, alleging that they were against the project and were supporting their Tamil Nadu unit BJP president K. Annamalai who has been opposing it tooth and nail. The Congress would implement the project if voted to power, the former Chief Minister said.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said the pandemic will not spread based on party lines. The government was committed to implementing the Mekedatu project. The Congress, which had forgotten the project when it was in power, has been playing “vote bank politics now”. The Congress is a divided house. The one-upmanship of Mr. Shivakumar is on display,” he said.
A couple of times, Mr. Bommai called on Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and submitted a memorandum urging the Centre to grant all clearances for the project.
The Tamil Nadu government has passed a resolution urging the Centre not to provide clearances to Karnataka for Mekedatu dam without the permission of the downstream States as per the Supreme Court’s judgment. The matter is pending before the Supreme Court.
The padayatra will culminate with a public meeting in Bengaluru on January 19.
Only DKS and I will walk: Siddaramaiah
Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah said only two people — KPCC president D.K. Shivakumar and himself — will walk if the government imposed Section 144 on January 9 to prevent participation of a large number of people in the padayatra.
“In case more people are not allowed, we two will walk. What is wrong with that. Under Section 144, not more than five people can gather,” he said.